Tag Archives: intersectionality

Intersectionality: Producing More Accurate and Useful Information for Making Change

The term, intersectionality emerged from U.S. Black feminism, Indigenous feminism, third world feminism, queer and postcolonial theory and was officially coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 (Hankivsky & Cormier, 2009). This concept moves beyond favored categories of analysis which typically include: sex, gender, race, and class and then uses that information to consider interactions between different aspects of social identity which can include: race, ethnicity, Indigeneity, gender, class, sexuality, geography, age, ability, immigration status, religion, as well as the impact of systems and processes of oppression and domination which can include: racism, classism, sexism, ableism, and homophobia (Hankivsky & Cormier, 2009). The key assumptions of intersectionality are: pursuit of social justice as main objective, conceptualization of identity and social categories of difference, and power as central to an intersectional analysis (Hankivsky & Cormier, 2009).

As stated by the authors, Olena Hankivsky and Renee Cormier in their article “Intersectionality: Moving Women’s Health Research and Policy Forward,”  intersectionality is transforming gender studies, cultural studies, and migration studies and has started to influence the disciplines of economics, political science, psychology, geography, criminology, history, sociology, and anthropology (2009). A central goal of intersectionality is the social inclusion of previously “ignored and excluded populations” (Hankivsky & Cormier, 2009). And today, more recently, intersectionality is being constructed in a way that it can be “applicable to any group of people, advantaged as well as the disadvantaged” (Hankivsky & Cormier, 2009).

Unlike traditional approaches, which often ignored the complexities of identity formation of women moreover, intersectionality has the potential to produce more accurate and useful information for making change and, in the process, helping to ensure that “existing efforts do not inadvertently disadvantage or harm any particular individual or community, or alternatively be complicit in the empowerment of another” (Rummens, 2004). Intersectionality provides the theoretical foundation for the quest of social justice.

Intersectionality can be thought of as a research and policy paradigm. A policy paradigm can be described as an “overarching set of ideas that specify how the problems facing them are to be perceived, which goals might be attained through policy and what sorts of techniques can be used to reach those goals” (web definition). Intersectionality is seen to be a policy paradigm for “fundamentally altering the ways in which social problems are identified, experienced, and understood so as to reflect the multiplicity of lived experiences” (Oxman-Martinez et al., 2002). Intersectionality can be conceptualized as a “loose set of ideas about how to undertake research and design and implement public and health policy” (Hankivsky & Cormier, 2009).

An intersectional approach is different from other approaches by how it conceptualizes social identity or categories of difference; by how it “places power and the complexity of processes of domination and subordination at the centre of analysis; and by how its main objective is the pursuit of social justice through intersectoral and counterintuitive coalitions” (Hankivsky & Cormier, 2009).

I looked up the following article/case study, “An intersectional analysis of visual media: A case of diesel advertisements” by Anthony J. Barnum and Anna M. Zajicek from 2008. To read the article, the link isà http://kuscholarworks.ku.edu/dspace/bitstream/1808/5693/1/STARV29A3.pdf

Below is the abstract from the author’s:

This study is intended to advance the application of an intersectional approach that focuses on the simultaneous operation of gender, race/ethnicity, and sexuality to the analysis of visual media, such as advertisements. Despite the growing advocacy to systematically include intersectionality in our analyses of people’s experiences and identities, on the one hand, and their images/representations, on the other, sociologists still tend to analyze only one of these identities at a time. In this article, we argue that the application of the intersectional approach leads to more complex and adequate understandings of how identities and power relations are constructed in visual media. Towards this end, we conduct an intersectional analysis of Diesel advertisements using the concepts of racialized gender and gendered race, and demonstrate the advantages of an intersectional analysis. In doing so, we hope to provide an illustration of an intersectional analysis of visual media, such as advertisements, which could inform the work of others interested in conducting similar analyses.

(Barnum & Zajicek, 2008)

The author’s purpose of this study was to conduct an intersectional case study of advertisements located in the public realm to illustrate the principles and advantages of an intersectional analysis (Barnum & Zajicek, 2008). The author’s say that in relation to advertising, intersectionality “allows us to understand how race/ethnicity, sexuality, and gender” (Barnum & Zajicek, 2008). This perspective can be applied to other visual media, including advertising campaigns, to see how complex intersectionalites are constructed and how they continually enter our consciousness (Barnum & Zajicek, 2008). Moreover, intersectionality calls for a different, more complex, and more holistic, reading of signs and symbolic orders (Barnum & Zajicek, 2008). The aspects of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality that are emphasized in the Diesel campaign “Nature: Love It While It Lasts” construct postmodern identities that are composed of fractured multiplicities (Barnum & Zajicek, 2008). This is accomplished by recognizing the parts of nature that are placed to form the perfect landscape to house the exotic of the body. Next, the exotic is taken from the context of a carnivalesque body and placed upon a classical body that is embedded in a nature illustrating the qualities of the body through such actions as sexual embeds (Barnum & Zajicek, 2008). To conclude, the authors goal was to show the “value of intersectional perspective in deconstruction of how the hegemonic representations of the body in visual media” (Barnum & Zajicek, 2008). The authors believe that intersectional analysis provides a resource for shifting our perceptions of the meanings embedded in advertisements and it also has potential for alternative pedagogy and knowledge creation that are connected to a multi-dimensional social change (Barnum & Zajicek, 2008).


Barnum, A. J., & Zajicek, A. M. (2008). An intersectional analysis of visual media: A case of diesel advertisements. (Master’s thesis) Retrieved from http://kuscholarworks.ku.edu/dspace/bitstream/1808/5693/1/STARV29A3.pdf

Hankivsky, O., & Cormier, R. (2009). Intersectionality: Moving Women’s Health Research and Policy Forward. Vancouver: Women’s Health Research Network.

Oxman-Martinez, J., Krane, J., & Corgin, N. (2002). Competing conceptions of conjugal violence: Insights from an intersectional framework. Montreal: Centre for Applied Family Studies, McGill University and Immigration & Metropolis.

Rummens, J. A. (2004). Overlapping and intersecting identities. Canadian Diversity/Diversité Canadienne, 3(2), 5–9.


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Intersectionality and Sexual Orientation

Intersectionality as a concept was first introduced by feminist theorist Kimberle Crenshaw in the 1980s and is used to describe the ways in which groups of minorities are intersectionally connected and excluded. It focuses on the collaborative effects of race, gender, class, sexual orientation, and national orientation. In other words, intersectionality addresses “the way specific acts and policies address the inequalities experienced by various social groups” (Hankivsky and Cormier, 217). The concept of intersectionality relates to critical legal studies when it comes to the outcomes of legal proceedings. For example, in the US the law had distinguished between two different kinds of discrimination: gendered discrimination and racial discrimination (Carastathis, webpage). Anna Carastathis, a blogger from Montreal, observed that black women in the US were being discriminated against under both kinds of discrimination. She used the example of a workplace and how black women were hired last and white males were always hired first (vice versa when it came to firing). In Canada, an example of intersectionality in relation to critical legal studies would be if a woman of aboriginal descent was accused of a crime that included intoxication, even if she was innocent, would she be biased against because of the history of aboriginals and alcoholism? Perhaps intersectionality comes to play in legal proceedings when it comes to an Indo-Canadian male sponsoring his wife from India. Due to the number of males that get paid to go to India and get married just for the purpose of bringing a female to Canada, would the male be prejudiced against even if his marriage was legit? Overall, in regards to legal proceedings, I would suggest that intersectionality plays a role when it comes to the outcome of cases in terms that many females probably feel as if they’ve be discriminated against because of their gender and race or other common characteristic that is discriminated against.

A case study that can be used as an example intersectionality and its application to law and society is the case of Egan v. Canada (1995). The case about two homosexual males who had been a couple for about 52 years. James Egan, the plaintiff, had applied for old age security but was denied because the definition of a spouse did not include “spouse of the same sex”. He believed that there was an infringement on the Charter in terms of equal protection and equal benefits under the law. The judge of the case decided that the definition of spouse and non-spouse had nothing to do with the sexual orientation therefore he was not discriminated against. However, Egan appealed the case and the appeal was dismissed. I believe it is clear that Egan was discriminated against in that the definition of a spouse should not have matter in terms of gender, as long as he was not lying about the fact he had a spouse. An important quote from the case is as follows:

“We will never address the problem of discrimination completely, or ferret it out in all its forms, if we continue to focus on abstract categories and generalizations rather than specific effects.  By looking at the grounds for the distinction instead of at the impact of the distinction…we risk undertaking an analysis that is distanced and desensitized from real people’s real experiences….  More often than not, disadvantage arises from the way in which society treats particular individuals, rather than from any characteristic inherent in those individuals” (Egan v. Canada, 1995).

I believe that the quote is very true. If society treated homosexuals equally, especially considering one doesn’t actually make the choice to be homosexual, then the fact that the term of spouse did not include “same sex spouse” would have been irrelevant. A spouse is a spouse no matter what the gender is. It is bizarre to know that because Egan’s spouse was a male he was denied old age security yet if his spouse was a female then there would not have been a problem.  What does it matter to the government what gender his spouse is? It shouldn’t matter. It shouldn’t even be the government’s business.

A video on intersectionality:


Works Cited


Egan v. Canada, [1995] 2 S.C.R. 513 Retrieved from

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egan_v._Canada on November 19, 2013.

Carastathis, Anna. “Intersectionality and Feminism”. Retrieved from

http://www.kickaction.ca/en/node/1499 on November 19, 2013.

Hankivsky, O. and Cormier, R. (2011). “Intersectionality and Public Policy: Some Lessons from

Existing Models”. Utah, USA: Sage Publications. Retrieved from

http://www.jstor.org/stable/41058335 on November 19, 2013.

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Intersectionality: In Theory & Praxis

Intersectionality was a term first penned by Kimberly Crenshaw, a prominent figure in Critical Race Theory and a proponent of race and gender issues. A succinct definition of Intersectionality is stated by Fellows and Razack as they content that our strategies and practices must account for the relationship among hierarchical systems.

“…Systems of oppression (capitalism, imperialism, and patriarchy) rely on each other in complex ways.  This “interlocking” effect means that the systems of oppression come into existence in and through each other so that class exploitation could not be accomplished without gender and racial hierarchies, imperialism could not function without class exploitation, sexism and heterosexism, and so on.  Because the systems rely on each other in these complex ways. It is ultimately futile to attempt to disrupt one system without simultaneously disrupting others” (Peel School Board, 2002).

Furthermore, Intersectionality is about the ways that various forms of discrimination occur simultaneously.  It is about personal identity, social group membership; and how people experience or react to these intersections. Through these facets of Intersectionality, we are able to critique and understand important social justice issues from more complex perspectives. For instance, we can’t understand gender violence in a countries context without understanding the intersection of issues in regards race, gender, and class. Intersectionaly came into fruition through a movement known as black feminism. (Gopaldas, 2013). Black feminism was kickstarted by the notion that interests of black women were not being represented equally. At that time, women’s movements were directed by Caucasian women and were dedicated to achieve equality with Caucasian men. Furthermore, African American men led African American movements, in a pursuit to gain equality amongst the Caucasian majority. Alienated by the separate movements focused on equality, the black feminism movement was created to bring forth a fight against class discrimination, race issues, and gender discrimination. In summary, the concept of Intersectionality arose out of black feminist scholars’ attempts to conceptualize both the particularity and universality of their social condition (Gopaldas, 2013).

In conjunction with the emergence of Intersectionality, Critical Legal Studies were also apparent at the time. Although not a single theory, many aspects of critical legal studies were being purported through these movements in order to eliminate class, gender, and race inequities. The aspirations to eliminate these characteristics were echoed by feminist jurisprudence and critical race theory, but because of limitations within CLS, they developed their own analyses and strategies (Pavlich, 2011). Hence, we see that Intersectionality and CLS conceptualized different ideologies and theories in order to look at different issues.

To divulge into a phenomena displaying Intersectionality, we can look at the works of Karma Chavez, a professor at the University of Wisconsin and how she helps us understand the labour issue in Wisconsin last year from an Intersectional perspective. I’ve attached pages from her journal article as she thoroughly explains the issue at hand.Image


What this case study illustrates is that intersecting identities of workers make a difference on how they are perceived.The significance of this case study is to show us how Intersectionality reveals how having singular identity categories can misinterpret the meanings of culture and power. A movement on behalf of “workers” as a generic identity category, may fail to interrogate the specific ways legislation impacts different “cultures” of workers differently (Chavez, 2012). Furthermore, Intersection helps us emphasize the plight faced by all workers, not just White male workers who are undoubtedly affected yet coded in a way that “workers” erases all complexities of the cultural and economic collective. Finally, an intersectional approach to critically analyze the case study provides resources in which we can investigate the multiple dimensions of power and identity that need to be prominent as we work towards social reform. As Chavez illustrates,

“For instance, at several rallies and protests, speakers and protesters with LGBT and queer identities highlighted the importance of consdering sexuality and gender in the labor context. Signs I saw including “queers for labor,” and “queers are laborers too,” point to the need to think in terms of alliance.”

This notion was supported by many Wisconsin LGBT organizations who encouraged the protest. Coalition and alliance politics only emerge from acknowledging differences and finding ways to work with and through them towards a collective end. An intersectional approach can both lead activists to coalition building, and coalitions can further aid in developing an intersectional perspective that strikes at the grass roots of oppression (Chavez, 2013), creating a new intersection into the theory, one that expands on race, class, and gender.

Finally, I’ve added a video of Nilanjana Bardhan, an employee in the department of Speech Communication at Southern Illinois University. Through her video, she expands on Intersectionality through personal experiences of her everyday life in praxis.


Work Cited: 

Chavez, K. (2012). Doing Intersectionality. Power, Privilege, and Identites in Political Activist Communities, 22-32. 

Gopaldas, A. (2013). Intersectionality 101. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing , 32, 90-94.

Peel School Board. (2012). Intersectionality. A Discussion on the way “isms” are inter-related. 


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Food for Thought: Gender, Sexuality, and the Law

We are reading two chapters from Comack’s (2006) Locating Law this week – One by Karen Busby entitled “Not a Victim Until a Conviction is Entered: Sexual Violence Prosecutions and Legal ‘Truth'”, and another by Kirsten Kramar entitled “Victims of Justice: Homophobia, Ageism, and Whorephobia”. Both chapters explore issues at the intersection of gender, sexuality, power, and law.

In thinking about these chapters, and about the questions posted below, it is helpful to review Comack’s (2006) discussion of ‘the feminist frameworks’ in her essay on “Theoretical Approaches in the Sociology of Law”.

I have two ‘food for thought’ questions for this week.

First, in relation to Homophobia and the Law:

Kramar (2006) uses a case study of the ‘Project Guardian’ operation to explore the social construction of a homophobic moral panic in 1990s Ontario. This study offers a number of examples of ways in which unequal, gendered, and sexualized social relations find expression in law (and law enforcement campaigns). It is important to note that Canadian law, politics, and culture have undergone significant shifts in relation to LGBTQ rights over the last several decades – as evidenced by anti-discrimination laws, hate crime provisions, the legalization of same-sex marriage, and the recognition of adoption rights for same-sex couples (among many other developments).

One of our teach-in groups for this week drew on Kramar’s analysis to examine the ongoing case study of Russia’s new law prohibiting “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations“. The Guardian reports that the passage of this law has contributed to an increase in homophobic violence in Russia; the law sends a message of officially-sanctioned exclusion that has emboldened groups inclined to engage in homophobic violence.

As part of his BBC series ‘Out There’, British broadcaster / comedian / filmmaker / actor / activist Stephen Fry interviewed Russian lawmaker Vitaly Milonov to discuss the new law:

With this week’s food for thought post, I would like to explore the role of law in the social construction of social problems (see Kramar 2006: 286-287).

The questions that should inform your blog post are as follows:

How, in general, does law facilitate the social construction of certain issues or groups as social problems? How does this apply to the Russian law in question? In other words, how does this law facilitate the social construction of a social problem, and what precisely is the nature of the social problem that is constructed through this law?

An English translation of the text and rationale for the law can be found here, and you should refer to this material when writing your post. Your post should also engage with material on the social construction of social problems (Kramar 2006 is a good start). Please also copy-and-paste my question (indented above) at the top of your blog post so that our readers will know what you are responding to.

Second, in relation to Karen Busby’s (2006) article “Not a Victim Until a Conviction is Entered”,

During this week’s teach-in on sexual violence prosecutions and legal ‘truth’, our research team reported on conversations that they had with a Crown prosecutor and a professor specializing in gender and the law. When asked about the nature and prevalence of gender bias in the criminal legal system, both respondents emphasized the complexity of the issue. While they gave different answers, both mentioned the importance of locating gender discrimination in relation to discrimination on the basis of class and race. One suggestion was that women qua women are not discriminated against by the courts during sexual violence prosecutions – rather, women are treated differently on the basis of their social class and race or ethnicity. Without supporting this assertion, I want to highlight it as an important example of the concept of intersectionality.  Intersectionality, as a concept, recognizes the existence of complex and intersecting forms of hierarchy, status, and identity. For instance, it problematizes ‘single-axis’ approaches that examine questions of class without considering the ways that class intersects with gender, race, citizenship, and other categories or modalities.

Fort this week’s food for thought post, first conduct some research on the concept of intersectionality (there are many excellent academic articles available through the KPU library, and Comack addresses the concept in her essay on ‘Theoretical Approaches in the Sociology of Law’). Then write a post that:

  1. Introduces and explains the concept of intersectionality, and describes how it relates to critical legal studies, and;
  2. Uses an example (a case study, news media article, policy, or other phenomenon) to illustrate how the concept of intersectionality can be applied to the study of law & society.

This is a particularly useful question for those of you who are using feminist legal theory, critical legal studies, or critical race theory as your theoretical perspective for your term paper.

Posts in response to this question should be submitted prior to our next class.

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